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Unschoolers in College - Livin' the Good Life

Apr. 8th, 2009

04:10 pm - Unschoolers in College

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We raised several "unschooled kids" who, instead of going off to college at 18, continued doing what they had done all along... follow their interests. At the time, I think that none of them ever imagined they would enter the school arena later on. But, now a few of our sons have entered college at advanced ages ("unschooled Maya", as well), and I was curious as to how that would be for them. How would they respond to the rigorous mental discipline imposed and demanded by someone other than themselves? How well would they be able to juggle the large amount of homework that is required for a full-time student... when serious, hours and hours of homework was completely new to them? How hard would they push themselves? Would they be happy to "slide by" with Cs, or would they challenge themselves for the As? I think I already knew the answers to these questions, but it has been confirming to actually see that I was right!
I have always held firmly to the belief that people who view themselves as smart and capable of achieving anything they set their minds to, can do anything... and do it well. So, I wasn't surprised when, one by one, our unschoolers began excelling in college. There has been a learning curve, to be sure. They have had to acquire completely new skills and work on subjects they previously thought they didn't like. They have had to learn to budget their time carefully and to know just how much effort is required to do well in their classes. This has taken some trial and error. They all seem to spend more time on their assignments than most seasoned students. I think it's because they really want to understand everything thoroughly, and they want to turn in excellent work... work that they are proud of. They also tell me that things take longer for them because they are so interested in what they are learning that they get side-tracked. They look up words and ideas that are new to them, which can lead them off on interesting, but time-consuming tangents. I'm sure that as they get the hang of "doing college" they will all get faster and more efficient. But, in this "fast food age", I think "fast learning" as opposed to "deep learning" has become, sadly, acceptable, and even encouraged. "Just memorize these facts. You don't have to thoroughly understand them, or even remember them long-term, as long as you can get the answers right on the test." This is not the way unschoolers operate. "Deep learning" is the norm for them. Since they were neither timed nor tested on their knowledge growing up, they didn't feel pressure to prove to someone else what they knew. They weren't learning for someone else. They were learning for themselves. It's an interesting and unique position to be in. And I see our kids continuing to excell in college because "owning the level of excellence" is the norm for them, and since college is something they are enthusiastically choosing to do, they will accept nothing less than excellence from themselves.